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10,000 birdwatchers monitor sick house finches to give scientists insight into avian flu and West Nile virus

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A female house finch suffering from conjunctivitis. (Andy Davis)

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A pair of healthy house finches visit Susan Williams's backyard feeder. The male (left) is distinguished by his blushing red plumage. (Susan K. Williams)

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More than 10,000 volunteer birdwatchers, dubbed “citizen-scientists,” are helping researchers to monitor a novel pathogen that causes eye infections in the common house finch. The data they are generating may also eventually provide insights into more serious diseases such as avian influenza and West Nile virus.